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An Idea Worth Spreading

by Lila Allen

October 9,2010

Nearly two months ago, a young woman named Kelly Dodson was assaulted in her own bedroom by an intruder. Antoine, Dodson's brother, fortunately managed to stop the attacker, who fled the scene. The story is a horrific one, no doubt, and Antoine's emotions running over from the night before have now been notoriously recorded in what became a YouTube sensation: "Well, obviously there's a rapist in Lincoln Park. He's climbing in your windows, snatching your people up, trying to rape them. So ya'll need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband, because they're raping everybody out here." And like so many YouTube heavy-hitters – the "Diabeetis" advertisement and "David After Dentist," to name a couple – Antoine's emotional statement found itself soon laid to a beat and manipulated with the robotic, honey-drippy distortion of Autotune. "Bed Intruder Song (feat. Kelly Dodson)" is now a bestseller on iTunes.



Dodson has since provided interviews regarding his recent Internet celebrity status. Antoine admits that at first he was offended by the public response to his interview, but states, "When I realized that people were doing other stuff with [the video], I thought, 'Wow, this is cool. A blessing came out of a bad situation. It was a blessing in disguise.'" Dodson, a victim of sexual assault himself, has used his fame to reach out to other rape victims (others who have "had their cases swept under the rug") and is using money made from his iTunes sales to move his family to a safer residence. Indeed, from discord and chaos comes music.

A lesson from Antoine may be in the cards for Charlotte. On September 24, the inaugural event of TEDxCharlotte hosted a variety of speakers who moved, inspired, motivated, and humbled their audience with TED-branded "ideas worth spreading" – all in 18 minutes or less. Though the auditorium held a limited number of occupants, the event was presented to a web audience via live feed on the TEDxCharlotte website. An entirely volunteer-based operation spearheaded by Candice Langston, TEDxCharlotte was the result of nearly a year of planning, organizing, and careful practice by many talented individuals. And it delivered: I learned of people in my region making a global difference by empowering groups the world over. People just like me – people whom I hope one day I can emulate.

The beauty of the event, however, has recently been overshadowed by a controversy arising during the last presentation of the day, a performance by the local artist John W. Love, Jr. In "Ours Was A Rich Affair," John was a sight to behold: an elaborately draped and feathered character whose monologue gripped the room by its throat, living up to any expectation as a finale for the event. The performance contained profanity and sexually explicit material, but every ounce of it was authentic and relevant to the character and the performance – to be frank, I never thought twice.

In a decision that has since reaped numerous angry emails and Facebook messages, Langston pulled the live feed mid-performance, stating that the Web audience was never warned that some content may be for suitable only for mature audiences. Across the Internet, TEDxCharlotte watchers have called the move an act of censorship and disrespect for Love's work. Langston was acting in what she believed to be in the best interest of the TEDx brand, the unsuspecting audience, and the event.

I bring up this circumstance not to take a side in the debate, but to point out our own "Bed Intruder Song" in all of the commotion. Whether or not it was the intention of the performance or the decision by Langston, Candice and John have created something beautiful: discourse on art, politics, and morality in Charlotte. Even if it was borne of hurt feelings and miscommunication, let us recognize that it is an important conversation.

Some have called the event "stigmatized," the city "pathetic" and "too conservative." These accusations can only exist where there is a grudge. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned. What we have observed through the experience is that we live in a city prepared to defend beauty and our beliefs – a city willing to discuss the ethics of art, event planning, and the integrity of our cultural scene. And that is an idea worth spreading.

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